Walk in Kaul Wildflower Garden

Take an evening stroll with me through Kaul Wildflower Garden, one of more than two dozen gardens at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden Blog, 2018
Red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) stands almost as tall as the longleaf pine sapling behind it.

Alabama’s state tree is the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris), and many young specimens grow along Kaul Wildflower Garden’s trails. This strong native tree is resistant to both disease and hurricane-force storms compared to other pines in the Southeastern US. I must also say that the young trees look a bit like Cousin Itt from The Addams Family.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A young longleaf pine–does it look like Cousin Itt, or is it just me?

I especially love the shady areas of this garden, where ferns and bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), with its distinctive leaf shape, thrive. 

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A new fern frond unfurls.
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Look for bloodroot growing along the path–and sometimes on the path!

A special mid-April treat for me was the mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) on the cusp of full bloom. The light was a bit low for a photo, but the end result looks like a pink firework against a night sky.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Mountain laurel about to bloom

If you have an opportunity to visit Kaul Wildflower Garden, you’ll find many plants growing in abundance, but I encourage you to keep an eye out for the oddballs, such as the drawf crested iris (Iris cristata) below. You won’t have any trouble recognizing it as an iris; it’s just smaller. It’s endemic to the eastern United States, which means you won’t find it anywhere else.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Dwarf crested iris is truly petite!

Another sighting on my walk was the red flower below, which I believe is a scarlet catchfly (Silene subciliata). I spotted this plant only once in the garden, but it was close to the trail.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: scarlet catchfly (Silene subciliata)

There are also habitat-specific plants, such as the statuesque pitcher plants and stonecrop in the next two photos. Stonecrop is so named for good reason. Here it makes a home on a small boulder.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: White pitcher plant (Sarracenia leucophyll)
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Stonecrop, also known as sedum (unidentified species)

I’ve only scratched the surface of what there is to see at Kaul Wildflower Garden, much less the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. And of course, its offerings depend on the time of year. For now I will close with the masses of yellow flowers blooming in the bog and surrounding area.  Based on the leaf shape, I believe the plants are butterweed (Packera glabella), but I am not positive.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Fallen tree in the bog
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: Butterweed (Packera glabella)

As usual, I used inaturalist.org software to help me identify plants to the best of my ability. If the iNaturalist community of citizen scientists corrects any of these IDs, I will update this post.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday Walk

To capture April in Alabama I’m venturing beyond my garden. I took these snapshots during a recent neighborhood walk in Birmingham.


(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
This oak-lined street is a piece of Americana perfection.

When oak trees first leaf out, their young green leaves shine in the sun as if golden. It always makes me think of Robert Frost’s poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay,” which begins “Nature’s first green is gold.” I love the sight of a huge oak five times the size of the house it grows beside.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A tree-lover’s ideal tree-to-house ratio
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Oak tree canopy against a blue sky

The wildflowers (or weeds, if you rather) are out.

The flattering name of this plant is, wait for it, Philadelphia fleabane. I saw this member of the daisy family today blooming along nonresidential roadsides and in natural areas. It may look a little weedy, but it’s native to North America. (In Europe and Asia, where it has been introduced, it’s considered invasive.)

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: Philadelphia fleabane (Erigeron philadelphicus)

A friend once told me dogwood trees should look like clouds in the landscape.

I have to agree. This dogwood in bloom looks exactly like a cirrus cloud floating in the sky.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Dogwood tree in April
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Dogwood blooms

Japanese maples offer vibrant color at a time of year when most everything is green, white or pastel.

I recently wrote about my Shaina Japanese maple, which is a dwarf variety. On today’s walk I encountered medium and large varieties.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Japanese maple with tall sculptural trunk
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Japanese maple
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Maple, sidewalk understory view, in April

Magnolias bloom in the summer, but their dark, glossy leaves and massive trunks are beautiful all year.

The low-hanging branches of the magnolia below are so inviting. I will be sure to revisit this tree in the summertime when it is in bloom.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Magnolia tree
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Another example of a tree-lover’s ideal tree-to-house ratio (magnolia edition)
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
My mom carried a bouquet of magnolias at my parents’ June wedding decades ago. This photo, taken this April, shows a bud in progress.

I believe I encountered an azalea that is native to Alabama!

If my ID is correct, this azalea is a pinkster flower (Rhododendron periclymenoides). If I get another ID from the iNaturalist community, I will update this post. I spotted this small shrub growing wedged in a tall, groomed evergreen hedge. It seemed out of place in the best way possible. 

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Suggested ID: pinkster flower (Rhododendron periclymenoides)

The topography of Birmingham can vary fairly dramatically within a small radius.

My neighborhood is all steep hills. The area I walked today (the adjacent neighborhood) is flat and carved with natural creeks and urban waterways.

(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Urbanized creek bed
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
This creek bed is nearly dry, but it must carry a lot of water during storms.
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
What if this were your driveway?
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
A rocky outcropping and babbling creek belie the residential setting (see the street view below).
(c) Terri Robertson, T's Southern Garden, 2018
Can you spot the hidden creek? (Hint: It’s to the left of the sidewalk. I drove on this road for years without noticing it.)

Thanks for visiting. I’d love to see what spring looks like in your neighborhood, wherever that may be.

 

Nature Walk at Jemison Park

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Lesser Celandine (“Ficaria verna”)

Jemison Park Nature Trail is one of my favorite local spots. This greenway follows Shades Creek and meanders through Mountain Brook. It’s just a hop, skip and jump away from central Birmingham.

I’ve written about iNaturalist on this blog before, and I’m featuring it again in this post about my recent nature walk through Jemison Park. If you’re in the Birmingham area and want to learn about iNaturalist from an expert, I recommend “Introduction to iNaturalist,” presented by Dr. John Friel of the Alabama Museum of Natural History on May 6, 2018, 1-3:30 p.m., at Ruffner Mountain.

I’ve been using the iNaturalist app since attending one of Dr. Friel’s presentations last year. I find it helps me better observe and appreciate the intricacies of nature, which makes spending time outdoors all the more rewarding. I also like recording and identifying plants in natural areas because my hope is to gradually transform our privet-filled wooded backyard into a woodland garden.

Here is what I observed on my walk through Jemison Park:

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Lesser Celandine (“Ficaria verna”)

I believe this ground cover (also pictured at the top of this post) is lesser Celandine (“Ficaria verna”). iNaturalist’s photo identification software suggested this ID. I carefully compared the database’s photos against mine. I think it’s a match, but the ID needs confirmation from the iNaturalist online community of citizen scientists. This plant is definitely going on my woodland garden wish list. [Update: I have since found out that Lesser Celandine is considered invasive in America, where it is not a native species. So it is off the wish list!]

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Next is Italian Arum (“Arum italicum”). Once again, iNaturalist software helped me venture a guess on the ID. A fellow user, who happens to be pursuing a doctorate in marine ecology and phycology, agreed. That moved my ID up to research grade. It will stay that way as long as two-thirds of iNaturalist users concur.

I also learned that some gardeners underplant Italian Acum with hostas. When hostas die back in winter, Italian Acum will maintain an attractive ground cover. I already have hostas, so I am definitely going to try this!

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Beaked Trout-Lily (“Erythronium rostratum”)

The identification of the Beaked Trout-Lily (“Erythronium rostratum”) above illustrates the combined power of software and collective human brainpower in making sense of the vast numbers of observations uploaded to iNaturalist.

After looking through the software’s suggestions, my best guess at an ID was a Yellow Trout Lily (“Erythronium americanum”). However, another citizen scientist, self-described as a “hobbyist botanist, reasonably well-read on trillium and solidago,” countered that the plant I observed was in fact a Beaked Trout-Lily. His argument: “prominent auricles at the base of the tepals which encircle filaments; tepals not streaked with purple; flower not nodding; petals not sharply reflexed.”

This is a good time to mention another tip about using iNaturalist. Even if you are an amateur, do your best to research and identify your observations starting with kingdom at a minimum, and narrowing down the taxonomy as much as you can. The iNaturalist software and other references can help you do this, as long as you employ common sense and pay attention to the details. The more you can help narrow it down, the more likely someone who actually knows their stuff will look at what you’ve posted. They can then confirm your ID, further narrow it down or correct it if needed.

I’ll close this post with a few more iNaturalist observations from Jemison Park Nature Trail.

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Red Buckeye (“Aesculus pavia”)

 

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Little Sweet Betsy (“Trillium cuneatum”), also known as toadshade

 

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My suggested ID, unconfirmed: Common Blue Violet (“Viola sororia”)

The Joy of Tiny Things

 

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Left: Tiny bluet (Houstonia pulsilla). Right: Henbit deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule), dandelion, sedum, creeping jenny and garden thyme.

Appreciate the little things, sometimes even weeds.

My perennials have been coming back to life the past couple of weeks, including herbs, heuchera, creeping jenny, moss and various sedum plants growing in the nooks and crannies of the terrace walls. And, of course, weeds. I can find weeds quite pretty– especially if they are native and/or beneficial to the environment–and they are the inspiration for the tiny arrangements featured in this post.

 

 

I am fairly certain that the small lavender-blue flowers pictured above, are tiny bluets (Houstonia pulsilla), native to the Southeast. Moss covers our shady backyard, and the tiny bluets, with blooms no more than a centimeter in diameter, look so pretty against the blanket of vibrant green. I arranged them in a small amber-colored bottle. I will warn you that I had to pull out the tweezers for this one. (As my husband was kind enough to notice, I had a lot of free time that day.)

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Henbit deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule)

The next arrangement features the vibrant purple-pink flowers of henbit deadnettle (Lamium amplexicaule), along with a dandelion, sedum, creeping jenny and garden thyme. Native to the Mediterranean, henbit deadnettles are fairly ubiquitous today. They attract pollinators and are a food source for some animals. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can even eat them as an herb. (I haven’t tried them, but the leaves smell like parsley.)

Except for the dandelion, which apparently does not last long once picked, this rustic bouquet has brightened my kitchen for almost a week now.

Note: To see what other garden bloggers have put “In a Vase on Monday” check out Cathy’s blog and comments.